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Book Bag


By Julie Cavacco

Black and White Press


Julie Cavacco, a children’s librarian in Deerfield, had been thinking for some time about ways to help young students with reading delays improve their skills, without having to worry about what their classmates might think of them. Her solution? Write a book that children at different reading levels would all find appealing.

So with illustrations by her husband, Jack, Cavacco has published “My Worst Best Friend” and “My Worst Best Friend Again,” collections of short tales about a young boy and his troublesome buddy, Andy. Andy is a good friend — he’s always up for a game of baseball, seeing a movie, or a hand of cards — but he’s also a prankster.

Consider the story in which Andy ends up with a black eye after getting hit in the head with a baseball. Andy’s got an ice pack on his face, and he whispers to his friend for help — then puts the ice pack down his friend’s shirt for laughs.

Cavacco and her husband funded the two soft-cover books through a Kickstarter campaign and are working to place them in school libraries. They also hope to do additional books in the series as eReaders.


By Robert S. Cox & Jacob Walker

American Palate/The History Press


Last year Robert Cox and Jacob Walker combined to tell a witty and interesting history of one of New England’s seminal foods, chowder. For 2012, Cox, a history professor and the head of special collections at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Walker, a UMass graduate and independent researcher, are back with a sequel, this time on cranberries.

Their new book, by a South Carolina publisher specializing in regional history, examines the long popularity of the tart fruit in New England and its important role in Massachusetts agriculture and the overall economy of Cape Cod, where the berries grow and are cultivated in bogs and peatland.

The Pilgrims who first stepped onto Cape Cod in 1620 were unimpressed with the cranberry, Cox notes, declaring that it had a “sower astringent taste,” as one account put it. But by Colonial times, the fruit had become a central part of most New England meals, and it later became — and still is — one of the commonwealth’s agricultural mainstays.

Cox, who does most of the book’s writing, looks at history through a cultural and sociological lens, examining how different factors shape the human trajectory. As he puts it, “Cranberry culture is more than the story of turning wild fruit into a cultivated crop; it is a story of how humans have been absorbed into a landscape, how geology, biology, history, agriculture, labor and industry have come together across the years and changed one another through contact.”

“Massachusetts Cranberry Culture” comes with photographs of cranberry harvests on Cape Cod in the early 20th century, as well as historical paintings and advertisements about the fruit. These were researched by Walker, who last year developed an online resource, The New England Chowder Compendium, that’s maintained at UMass.

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